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Facebook to test reduced visibility of political content in Ireland, Spain and Sweden – EURACTIV.com

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Facebook is reportedly extending the testing of making political content less visible in its News Feed to at least three EU countries following positive user feedback.

The social media giant’s plans to expand their policy to Ireland, Spain and Sweden were reported in American news website Axios. The policy of reducing the visibility of political stories was launched at the beginning of the year in the United States, Canada, Brazil and Indonesia.

“We plan to keep civic and political groups out of recommendations for the long term, and we plan to expand that policy globally. To be clear, this is a continuation of work we’ve been doing for a while to turn down the temperature and discourage divisive conversations and communities,” said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg when announcing the policy last year.

Facebook’s move seems to be driven by the polarised US political climate, which reached a peak in the Capitol Hill attacks on 6 January, when supporters of outgoing President Trump stormed the US Congress. Social media were pointed to as key factors in inciting the rioters, and are frequently criticised for spreading political disinformation.

The positive user feedback has encouraged the online platform to expand the pilot to several other countries, including Ireland, Spain and Sweden. Political content online accounts for 6% of Facebook content, according to the platform’s own assessment.

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Depoliticised content

Emma Llansó, Director of the Free Expression Project at the Centre for Democracy & Technology (CDT) welcomed the fact the social network was testing “how users respond to political content.”

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“Engagement-driven ranking of content on social media can be exploited by bad actors seeking to drive disinformation and divisiveness with sensational posts,” Llansó added.

However, for Ralph Schroeder, professor at the Oxford Internet Institute, the policy “is not a long-term strategy for Facebook or other companies, since they also want to be a means for political expression, unless the content is harmful.”

Schroeder notes that “like other digital media, Facebook has problems in dealing with troublesome content,” adding that content moderation for these platforms is an “ongoing dilemma”.

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Political content definition

Under the new policy, Facebook users will have to proactively join a political group, which is a measure intended to avoid the creation of echo chambers and rabbit holes where the algorithm increasingly suggests extremist or harmful content.

This approach is seen as an “improvement” by Josephine Ballon, head of legal at the German NGO HateAid. However, Ballon stresses that “Facebook does not provide a definition of ‘political groups’ or ‘political content’ on their website or in the community guidelines or elsewhere.”

“It is not clear if that includes only content and groups set up directly by political parties or also other initiatives/organisations that are related to a party. Without a public definition the criteria that is used to assess this question is completely untransparent, cannot be verified and we also have to assume that it can be evaded or circumvented easily,” Ballon added.

CDT’s Llansó also urged the social media to empower users to select their preferences, as “ultimately, Facebook should be working towards giving users more control over what’s in their NewsFeeds.

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Discussions on transparency requirements for online platforms’ algorithms and enabling users to modify the preference defined by recommender systems are currently taking place in the context of the EU Digital Services Act.

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Make online platforms accountable for their algorithms, leading MEP says

EU lawmakers will battle over whether online platforms should be required to open their algorithms to scrutiny, making them accountable for fundamental rights violations, after the European Parliament published its initial revisions to the planned Digital Services Act. The new blueprint also includes stronger opt-in and enforcement measures.

Political news outlets

Llansó urged the social network to be transparent in its political content because it “could have huge ramifications for journalism, advocacy, and discussions of political topics in general.”

News media reporting on politics might be the big losers from Facebook’s new policy, as reducing the visibility of political news might mean a drop in traffic for online media. Facebook has acknowledged these concerns and committed to a “gradual and methodical rollout.”

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Wout van Wijk, executive director at News Media Europe, defined Facebook’s approach of suppressing an entire category of content as a “very slippery slope”.

“It seems Facebook cannot get a grip on the proliferation of disinformation and hate speech on its platform and is looking at these rather extreme and damaging measures in an ultimate effort. Once again, it’ll be big tech dictating what type of content is consumed by Europeans, and what not,” van Wijk warned.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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Facebook Owner Meta Launches New Platform, Safety Hub to Protect Women in India

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Meta (formerly Facebook) on Thursday announced a slew of steps to protect woman users on its platform, including the launch of StopNCII.org in India that aims to combat the spread of non-consensual intimate images (NCII).

Meta has also launched the Women’s Safety Hub, which will be available in Hindi and 11 other Indian languages, that will enable more women users in India to access information about tools and resources that can help them make the most of their social media experience, while staying safe online.

This initiative by Meta will ensure women do not face a language barrier in accessing information Karuna Nain, director (global safety policy) at Meta Platforms, told reporters here.

“Safety is an integral part of Meta’s commitment to building and offering a safe online experience across the platforms and over the years the company has introduced several industry leading initiatives to protect users online.

“Furthering our effort to bolster the safety of users, we are bringing in a number of initiatives to ensure online safety of women on our platforms,” she added.

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StopNCII.org is a platform that aims to combat the spread of non-consensual intimate images (NCII).

“It gives victims control. People can come to this platform proactively, hash their intimate videos and images, share their hashes back with the platform and participating companies,” Nain said.

She explained that the platform doesn’t receive any photos and videos, and instead what they get is the hash or unique digital fingerprint/unique identifier that tells the company that this is a known piece of content that is violating. “We can proactively keep a lookout for that content on our platforms and once it”s uploaded, our review team check what”s really going on and take appropriate action if it violates our policies,” she added.

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In partnership with UK Revenge Porn Helpline, StopNCII.org builds on Meta’s NCII Pilot, an emergency programme that allows potential victims to proactively hash their intimate images so they can”t be proliferated on its platforms.

The first-of-its-kind platform, has partnered with global organisations to support the victims of NCII. In India, the platform has partnered with organisations such as Social Media Matters, Centre for Social Research, and Red Dot Foundation.

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Nain added that the company is hopeful that this becomes an industrywide initiative, so that victims can just come to this one central place to get help and support and not have to go to each and every tech platform, one by one to get help and support.

Also, Bishakha Datta (executive editor of Point of View) and Jyoti Vadehra from Centre for Social Research are the first Indian members in Meta”s Global Women”s Safety Expert Advisors. The group comprises 12 other non-profit leaders, activists, and academic experts from different parts of the world and consults Meta in the development of new policies, products and programmes to better support women on its apps.

“We are confident that with our ever-growing safety measures, women will be able to enjoy a social experience which will enable them to learn, engage and grow without any challenges.

“India is an important market for us and bringing Bishakha and Jyoti onboard to our Women”s Safety Expert Advisory Group will go a long way in further enhancing our efforts to make our platforms safer for women in India,” Nain said.

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Facebook Adds New Trend Insights in Creator Studio, Which Could Help Shape Your Posting Strategy

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Facebook’s looking to provide more content insight within Creator Studio with the rollout of a new ‘Inspiration Hub’ element, which highlights trending content and hashtags within categories related to your business Page.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

As you can see in these screenshots, posted by social media expert Matt Navarra, when it becomes available to you, you’ll be able to access the new Inspiration Hub from the Home tab in Creator Studio.

At the right side of the screen, you can see the first of the new insights, with trending hashtags and videos from the last 24 hours, posted by Pages similar to yours, displayed above a ‘See more’ prompt.

When you tap through to the new hub, you’ll have a range of additional filters to check out trending content from across Facebook, including Page category, content type, region, and more.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

That could be hugely valuable in learning what Facebook users are responding to, and what people within your target market are engaging with in the app.

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The Hub also includes insights into trending hashtags, within your chosen timeframe, which may further assist in tapping into trending discussions.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

How valuable hashtags are on Facebook is still up for debate, but you’ll also note that you can filter the displayed results by platform, so you can additionally display Instagram hashtag trends as well, which could be very valuable in maximizing your reach.

Much of this type of info has been available within CrowdTangle, Facebook’s analytics platform for journalists, for some time, but not everyone can access CrowdTangle data, which could make this an even more valuable proposition for many marketers.

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Of course, overall performance really relates to your own creative, and thinking through the action that you want your audience to take when reading your posts. But in terms of detecting new content trends, including hashtag usage, caption length, videos versus image posts, and more, there’s a lot that could be gleaned from these tools and filters.

It’s a significant analytics addition – we’ve asked Facebook for more info on the rollout of the new option, and whether it’s already beyond test mode, etc. We’ll update this post if/when we hear back.

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